Maids of honour caught off their guard

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An official Israeli guard of honour were caught in an off-guard pose yesterday preparing to enter the residence of the country's President, Ezer Weizman, in Jerusalem prior to a meeting with the US envoy Dennis Ross. Although the scene was vaguely reminiscent of one of the many glamorous beach-side publicity stunts at this week's Cannes Film Festival or a record sleeve by Britain's best known all-women pop group, the Spice Girls, the five young women were in fact charged with a much more important role - that of guarding the American envoy.

Mr Ross held talks in Gaza and Jerusalem on reviving Israel-PLO peace negotiations but appeared to make little headway in his rescue mission. He met the Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, in Gaza and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli-PLO peace negotiations broke down two months ago after Mr Netanyahu gave the go-ahead to build houses for Jews on a West Bank hilltop which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

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